See you later alligator… screen door stories and my parents’ love of music

Saying goodbye to things can be tough whether it’s just one thing or a whole house.

My parents moved out of the house I grew up in the summer of 2017. I had lived in it since I was four, which means they lived there about 31 years. A couple months before they moved I remember sitting with my oldest sister Jenny and discussing the possibility of our parents moving and how we would feel. We were on my mom’s favorite couch in the living room that had the blue carpet.

We sat and contemplated it. I was more open to the idea and feeling less attached at the moment than she was.

But come a few months later, I wasn’t feeling so unattached.

We had had a family reunion at the house just before I found out my parents were in fact putting their house on the market. Along with the rest of the family, that reunion was the last time I saw it as I want to remember it. I was four hours away in Minnesota and wouldn’t be down to see it one last time before they started all the de-personalizing that goes along with the staging process. This made me sad.

I saw pictures up online of my parents’ house that looked great, but very unfamiliar to what I had remembered and come so accustomed to over the years. It wasn’t the same. The dining room my mom had made into her sun room/piano room/study was staged as a dining room again. She had never liked a formal dining room, but they thought it’d sell the house better. The mural my sister had painted on the former bedroom we shared for so many years, that my dad had made his study, was painted over. I totally understood. But this is when I began to start closing my eyes more often to make sure I could still remember in my mind what it all looked like before.

A sadness crept into my mind that left me wondering if I was more attached to the house than I thought I’d be. Coming home was never going to be the same. All these years I’d made the trip from Minnesota to Wisconsin and stayed with them, sleeping in my former room. Where would I sleep now? What was I going to do to deal with all the change? I was happy for my parents and sad for myself at the same time. It was a strange combination of emotions.

When it came time for them to move I drove down one last time to see it. I arranged for my sisters to meet my parents and I at the house and take a picture of us outside. This was the last day I was at my childhood home.

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As I walked through the empty rooms I snapped pictures on my phone of every nook and corner that I could. I later made a Shutterfly photo book with all the pictures. I’m so glad I did. Some of those photos I’ve already shared here on this blog, like in: The year I slept in our dining room and used an old wardrobe for a closet

But I was blindsided by a feeling that something was being lost either way. I scrambled to try and figure out a way to try and make sure I’d remember all of the memories made there.

It wasn’t until almost a year later in 2018 that I began this blog as a way to revisit those memories. In a lot of ways, the selling of my childhood home is the reason I started writing my blog to begin with. It has helped me preserve my memories, most all of which, up until this point, come from the time I lived there.

I kept the screen door from my childhood home

The inspiration for the following memories come from a screen door from my childhood home. It led to the garage in that house. I asked my Dad and Mom over the phone one day if they could try and salvage it for me before they closed the door in that house one last time.

Dad took it off its hinges, packed it in his Prius and drove it up to Minnesota. I wish I had a picture of that!

Why? I had thought it was totally unique and perhaps I could hang it on a wall as some sort of decoration some day I guess. My sister Sarah once used a couple of bi-fold doors as an artsy headboard, could I do something like that?

Or maybe it was slightly an act of desperation on my part, to try and grab anything I could that was sill left of the house. I didn’t want it to be left behind.

This screen door has sat in my garage waiting for me to do something with it since up until a couple months ago when I took this picture:

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I’ve got it leaned up against my front door.

My Dad had just repainted it before that family reunion so you can see how nice and white it is.

This screen door helped dry the kitchen floor when my mom was washing it.

I remember my mom having the garage door open and this screen door closed to let air in when she was washing the kitchen floor. She’d have all the chairs pulled into our family room that was down a step off the kitchen. As a young girl I’d be climbing over the chairs and can remember her telling me that the floors were still wet. I’d have to wait to cross over the floor a bit longer, the smell of lemon scented Pine-sol was still floating in the air.

There’d be music on, coming from the stereo over by the fireplace behind me, and she’d be humming. I’d hear birds outside chirping as a light breeze from the garage would blow over the kitchen floor, helping the streaks disappear and the wet floors dry.

Both my parents loved playing music loud.

Sometimes my mom would turn the family room stereo up really loud, like when she was cleaning or cooking in the kitchen. She’d turn up the volume to the max, especially if it was something like opera. Sometimes she’d stop what she was doing and wave her hands back and forth with her eyes closed like she was conducting the orchestra herself.

If she opened her eyes and saw me or my sisters laughing she’d say something like “oh, it’s so good, that part. I just love it!”

Mom seemed to secretly want to be a conductor herself and she thrilled herself with relishing moments in songs that moved her.

Screen door open or not, she was not shy to blast something loud if she loved it. Who cared if the neighbors heard.

Dad was no different. Well, except usually the door to the garage was closed when we could hear him blasting music while he was still in his car.

He commuted to work half an hour each way working as an accountant for a packaging company. He didn’t seem to mind his drive because he’d listen to music. Sometimes he’d come home listening to something that hadn’t quite finished yet. He’d turn his car off and sit in the garage with the radio still on. Sometimes he’d turn the volume up even louder.

Dinner might be ready, and my dog Skipper would be barking at the door to let us know Dad was home, not that we couldn’t hear for ourselves with the music going.

I remember many times I’d peak out and see him with a big smile on his face jamming out. It’d be an oldie from his youth like by the Beetles or Hollies and he’d use the steering wheel as drums. He’d tap the dashboard with both hands if he saw me and bounce his head and look like he was saying: listen Annie, this is the best part… it’s so good… gotta finish this before I come in. I’d just laugh and shake my head.

Mom would smile as she was getting dinner ready like she was thinking, let him be a bit longer.

“Dad’s home!” I’d say.

If it wasn’t too cold, I’d close this screen door but leave the garage door open for him to come in shortly. I liked hearing him enjoy his music too.

Here’s the original handle:

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I loved seeing my Mom and Dad experience music and in a lot of ways I think I got my love of music from each of them. This screen door reminds me of that.

“See you later alligator, after while crocodile!”

Because of his longer commute, Dad left in the morning before I’d go to school most days. For the longest time I remember looking out the garage door and saying goodbye to him. In the winter time the screen door would be sort of propped open against the inside of the garage wall. I think my Dad just unlatched the spring to keep it from shutting.

When I was a little girl Dad and I would take turns saying “See you later alligator…” and responding “after while crocodile!”

It was our little routine we had.

 

Here’s the cool latch it had:

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A new purpose as a bunny house enclosure lid

So I’m currently in the process of moving now myself. This screen door got passed on to my sister Sarah the last time she visited. I was having a hard time parting with it, which is why I was snapping these pictures. But she was here when I was purging my garage where it was and said it might just work to use as an enclosure cover for her pet rabbit. She wanted to build a spot out back for it to play and needed a top to the cage.

I liked that idea.

So, this old screen door will have a new home and purpose soon as a bunny house enclosure lid.

We laughed at how she had only bad memories of the door, like getting her finger pinched many times in it. She reminded me how it squeaked too, and sometimes got slammed shut. It’s funny that one person can have such different feelings about an object than another person, even if they’re from the same family.

This screen door is an example of that. I loved it. She was sort of indifferent but could see it’s practical use going forward.

But I’m happy that I allowed myself time to let it go as I scrambled to try and literally take something from the house I grew up in that was at one point attached.

It might seem a bit pathetic or desperate to others out of context to the stories I just recalled. But now that I’ve written about them I feel like I can let go a bit more.

As I begin to see a pattern in my doing this blog in the first place, it’s more clear to me that extracting the stories from the objects I’ve kept over time is my main goal. I don’t want to lose these stories or forget memories. They truly can’t be made up either. The uniqueness of each is special to me and by telling the stories it seems to allow each to live on forever. I love the calmness and peace that brings me.

Like the gentle breeze that flowed though the screen door of my childhood home, and sounds of music and laughter that it couldn’t stop, it reminds me to keep experiencing joy whenever possible.

Also, that life’s short. We should close our eyes to enjoy the moment and play the music loud until the song is done, even if we’re already home.

If we move houses, we can bring our memories with us.

And no matter what: when one door closes, another door will open.. as the saying goes.

How did you feel leaving your childhood home behind? Do you remember the last day you were there? I’d love to hear your story too. Leave a comment below.

 

 

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